For the past several years, the Forest Service has been working with land owners and interested parties in the North Fork drainage near Big Sky to resolve a number of access issues. This work has led to a proposal which considers an exchange of existing easements for new easements to access National Forest System lands. Since the proposal involves the exchange of some rights currently held by the United States to access the Gallatin National Forest in lieu of new easements, the Forest Service is seeking public feedback to determine whether or not to move forward with the exchange.
“We’ve had a great deal of interest in this proposal and heard from the public that they would like more time to look over the proposal, form their opinion and get responses back to us,” said Lisa Stoeffler, Bozeman District Ranger. “We also had a tremendous turnout at our first public meeting and didn’t get the chance to visit with everyone there. Our interest is to hear from folks before we decide how we’ll move forward.”
The United States currently holds full and perpetual public easements for Forest Road 166B (West Fork Loop Road), Forest Road 166D (Basin Road), National Forest Trail #16 and for the North Fork Trailhead. These easements and facilities are held by the Forest Service and are on private lands held subject to these easements.
Under the current proposal, the North Fork Trailhead would serve both the North Fork Trail #16 and a new 6.8-mile trail loop that would be constructed in sections 20, 21, 22, and 27 on private land that would eventually connect to National Forest Trail #403. This new trail would be located on a perpetual, public, year-round easement held by a public trail management entity for all non-motorized public uses, granted by each private land owner. Trail #403 is also accessible from the north via Beehive Basin.
The United States would continue to hold an easement on Forest Road 166B on the east side of the loop from Highway 64 to the North Fork Trailhead. The Forest Service would hold an easement for administrative use only from Highway 64 on Forest Roads 166B and 166D to National Forest System lands on the west side of the loop with an adequate reroute around the home on Forest Road 166B.
The Bozeman Ranger District will host a second public meeting to answer questions about the proposal from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 4, in the Buck Ridge Room at Bucks T4 in Big Sky. Additionally, the Forest Service has extended the public comment period for this decision to April 12, 2013. Feedback can be submitted in writing to 3710 Fallon Street, Suite C, Bozeman, MT 59718 or electronically to FSfirstname.lastname@example.org (include “FR166B comments” in the subject line).
For more information, including maps of the proposal and the current situation, please visit us on the web at www.fs.usda.gov/gallatin or call the Bozeman Ranger District at (406) 522-2520.